To approach aikido from a non-technique emulation practice, authentic attack energy is necessary because aikido is only applicable to attack (differentiated from aiki principles
which may apply throughout one's life in many ways). In the study of attack from a spiritual perspective, my conclusions about intention have been reaffirmed, because without an intention to connect to the central core of the target in a meaningful, impactful way, no aikido will manifest, unless the "aikidoist" uses brute force to employ an aikido shaped throw (counter attacks using technique).
Once one's partner understands and can produce and maintain energy through authentic attack intention to nage's central core, one can start to see how hardwiring in the lower brain produces an instant defense response. This is great for fighting, but no so good for aikido. I can demonstrate the principles of uke/nage interchange in a hard style application of aikido, but the problem is two fold. The hard martial use of aikido principles will trigger defense mechanisms in a attacker who is not 100% committed, and in the case of the attacker following through on his attack despite the aikido counter attack, the attacker leaves the event with the feeling of being bested, thereby promoting retaliation, and perhaps an escalation of the conflict, which I feel is not the purpose of aikido.
When working with a partner who is not just "giving ukemi" but is dedicated to directing a flow of penetrative energy to one's center, it is then much easier to see where one's own lower brain has reflexively put one into fighting mode rather than a "state of all-is-one."
This is perhaps as challenging as any aikido practice can be because rather than uke giving nage "practice dummy" energy so that a prescribed aiki path can be trained, uke puts nage under pressure, thereby usually eliciting the default limbic response immediately. At this point in the conversation I like to point out that this is not
an intention to stop the aikido. That would be a defense rather than an attack. I can demonstrate the difference.
This is the point where the "paradox" of aikido is revealed to be less of a paradox than a call for a paradigm shift.
The conflict is between lower brain responses, hardwired through millions of years of central nervous system evolution for a creature to survive at any expense, and our neocortex reasoning and abstract thoughts that allow us to respond from a place of higher consciousness in lieu of reflex.
Mr. Mead, I believe this is what you are getting at, but I also have found that it can be realized through rational thought.
The lower brain will fight tooth and nail against the idea that love will produce a flow of energy that will be an effective defense against physical assault. Intermediate level students in my classes will stay "stuck" as long as their intentions are defense oriented. Sometimes the defense intention will be very subtle, but as long as it is there, there will be some indication of its presence.
But as soon as they can transcend the lower brain response and enter a "state of all-is-one," which we practice by generating beneficent intention, the aikido spontaneously manifests, sometimes like things you might think of as aikido techniques, but usually in more immediate, more direct paths. In zen this is mushin, but as we are interacting with a partner, the no-mind has a "flavor" of compassion or loving kindness. The way we train to generate beneficent intention often includes mental imagery of things that induce love.
It is totally a trainable thing, and I don't think Ikeda Sensei goes around showing stuff he doesn't think anyone can do but him. We practice what he shows in our dojo, and that is all we practice. It is no mystery to us - it is definitely awe-inspiring when nage finds that state and embodies it - on both sides of the aikido - but it is not a mystery. We do it all the time - even beginners. The training becomes about shifting intention from the automatic to the conscious.
Here is a clip of one of my training partners, Rene, beginning with him working with an 11 year old after regular class about three years ago: http://youtu.be/kkOa3FRfu5k
As you can see we don't teach him how to move, we instruct from intention. Rene is not being brutal but he is being relentless with his attack intention like he would with anyone in the dojo. The kind of ukemi you see in the rest of this clip may look like normal ukemi during some parts, but in my experience, if I were to attack average aikido practitioners the way Rene and I are attacking, most would either panic and/or try to force Rene or me into a throw using a technique. I would bet that 2% will actually find aiki under this kind of pressure. It wouldn't be because either Rene or I were being defensive against the aikido, or just bad ukes - just the opposite. The energy we are giving should have us on the mat very quickly, just as you see it happening with each other, but most people have not trained to work with authentic attack intention.
The key instruction which provided the aha moment for this young student was when he took the advice to "share." Had he misunderstood the word and taken it to mean he had to give a portion of what's his to someone else, he wouldn't have been able find aiki. But he actually embodied the idea of sharing and the ki extended out of him to Rene. Because Rene kept his attack up we see him go to the ground. "Sharing" from a pure intention is beneficial to the "extendee."
Next some jiuwaza practice, at 1:30 Rene responds to my shomen attack with a technique which brings him to the ground because employing one of his old hard style techniques made him into the primary attacker. My attack took on aikido characteristics, but this just goes to show that the attack intention never let up.
Around 3:00 Rene then gets stuck because his limbic system triggers defense from my attack. You can see him start and stop because he can feel that he is automatically trying to apply force and refuses to do so as to use force just to do the throw would be meaningless in this kind of practice. Instead, he extends ki through his other hand to complete the circuit. There is no physical force there, but there is a flow of ki. This can't be faked by either one of us because we have an agreement in our dojo not to let each other get away with anything.
Practicing this way reveals the literal truth in masakatsu agatsu and makes it our operating principle, because without transcending the lower brain response, the fighting mind, to a state of higher consciousness we will see no aikido.
If you (or any other readers) live in or are visiting the Los Angeles area and would like to experience what I am talking about (or just call me on my b.s.), please feel free to contact me.